The timing of Joanne Faulkner’s new book is exquisite. Launched on the eve of Valentine’s Day,is a guide to intimacy that uses traditional Chinese medicine and food as its tools.
As the author puts it: “This is a cookbook with a difference that guides you from the kitchen table to the bedroom with over 100 recipes that have sexual health benefits.”
On the day that’s in it, you might be tempted to dive in at the section entitled “Aphrodisiac” with its tantalising recipes for “kissable vanilla dusting powder” and “lickable chocolate body paint”. By all means try them out, but this is a book that is about far more than the passing titillation of one day in mid-February.
“You can use the book as a delicious, accessible, health-focused cookbook, to delve deeper into Tantric and Taoist exercises, or to address specific conditions such as low libido, fertility, post-baby blues, menopause and more,” says Joanne Faulkner, a Dublin-based shiatsu practitioner.
She first discovered the transformative and energetic properties of food during her shiatsu training in 1999 when she tasted a salty paste in the kitchen of Lios Dána
retreat centre in Inch, Co Kerry, and felt the muscles across her chest ease.
“My whole nervous system was calmer than it had been for weeks. At that moment, I understood that food was more than just fuel; it was medicine,” she tells Feelgood.
That discovery prompted her to follow postgraduate studies in Chinese medicine to learn how each food — its season, colour and flavour — correspond to a body part, a sensory organ or an emotion.
She used that knowledge to help her own shiatsu clients and, in 2013, began giving conscious cooking classes to help people understand the connection between physical symptoms, emotional conditions, and the food we eat.
Ask her how it has worked in her own life and this is what she says:
I’m in my 50s and I have yet to enter menopause, and my sexual energy is better than ever. I put it down to using food as medicine and the five elements system of traditional Chinese medicine.
But she adds, being human is really messy, and love and intimacy are far removed from the cupid hearts that mark Valentine’s Day.
“In my life, I have experienced heartbreak, panic attacks, low libido, hormonal spins and the hot flushes of peri-menopause but I am alive and very well without medication or trips to the doctor,” she says.
Ultimately, though, these difficulties helped her to find shiatsu and the healing power of food. “You are responsible for your feelings, emotions, reactions, satisfaction and happiness,” she says.
Her first book, Shiatsu and the Art of Conscious Cooking published in 2014, introduced readers to healing recipes, meditations,
acupressure points and traditional Chinese medicine.
This book tackles the myth that love is neat and predictable. Indeed, you don’t even need to have a partner to experience love, says the author. “You can empower, love and cherish yourself with food,” she says.
There is more good news: In Chinese medicine, there are no superfoods and no bad foods; just food that suits where you are now. That might mean chilli pesto to reduce inflammation and pain or garlic and apple slices to help a low libido, or beetroot, pear and feta salad, which stimulates blood flow to help erectile dysfunction.
But, as the recipe makes clear, you’d have to eat an awful lot of beetroot to get the same instant hit as Viagra. This is not a book about quick fixes. It is about using food to talk about and remedy sexual problems; understand and boost sexual energy and deepen the connection with yourself and others.
It is also beautifully produced and includes meditations, poetry, a guide to acupressure points and a selection of Joanne Faulkner’s own paintings.